One week. That's how long Avery Bradley's off-season lasted.
After the close of the 2013/14 season that saw the Boston Celtics drop to a 25-57 record, Bradley took one week off to catch his breath. Then he headed right back to the gym and worked out three times a day. Even while on vacation a couple of weeks ago, he kept up his workout routine. Right now, despite the injuries that have dogged him in his career, Bradley is probably the only Celtic who is match fit.
This is obviously music to the ears of Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens, after they decided to hand him a four-year contract worth $32 million. It's not quite a case of putting all your eggs in one basket as much as it is putting most of the eggs in a basket while keeping the others close by.
Committing to Bradley was something that no one really saw coming. With a notoriously crowded backcourt, and constant rumors about the future of a certain Rajon Rondo, people expected only one real outcome – Bradley out and a new contract offer for Rondo. Instead, Ainge and Stevens pulled the rug out from under people's feet and committed to Bradley, allowing the rumors about Rondo to continue flooding in.
There are many ways to interpret this. Some say this means the rebuild is going to be based around Bradley and Rondo will be leaving the TD Garden imminently. Others say that Rondo will remain the focal point of the Celtics lineup and Bradley will be part of the support act.
For the moment at least, the latter seems like the most likely outcome. That's not something that will bother Bradley though. No, not in the slightest. As far as he is concerned, the focus is on rebuilding the C's and getting them back in the playoffs. He even thinks this is something that can be achieved this coming season.
"A lot of people might say that, 'We can’t be this, we can’t be that.' I feel like with the coach that we have, we can be anything that we want to be,'' Bradley said at his Dartmouth youth basketball training camp. ''We just have to listen to [Brad Stevens] and buy into what he’s trying to do, his plan for us. I feel like we have a chance to make the playoffs and make a lot of noise this year if we listen to Brad."
The respect that Bradley has for Stevens comes across loud and clear, but at the same time, he knows that the head coach of the Celtics doesn't owe him any favors. Marcus Smart, a player very similar to Bradley, is now part of the roster. If Bradley does start the opening game against the Brooklyn Nets, it doesn't necessarily mean that he will keep that place.
"Everyone keeps telling me that Marcus is a great defender and ... I’m excited about that," said Bradley. "Because Rondo is a great defender as well. Last year, he still played great defense, but this year I feel like he’s going to take it to an even different level. I feel like we have a chance to be a top-10 defensive team in the NBA this year."
Bradley didn't have the most impressive campaign last season, although he performed a little better on offense than was expected. Bradley has always been known as a defensive guard who can go toe-to-toe and face-to-face with the very best offensive players in the league. Just don't ask him to run an offense.
Then again, maybe the Celtics should ask him. Last season saw him net 39.5 percent of his three-point attempts, and he found quite a bit of success with his pull-up shots. Numbers like this could make him one of the most proficient shooters in Boston right now.
What all this means for Bradley at this stage is still unclear. All Bradley knows is that Boston was always the place he wanted to be.
"I had [an opportunity] to stay near my second home -- I’ve been living here for four years," said Bradley. "I love playing under Danny Ainge and [coach] Brad [Stevens], they are amazing guys. It was a no-brainer for me. They were the first team that called and -- we had other calls -- but, Boston, I knew I was coming back here."
There's no point in asking him about his new contract either. That's something that's not on his mind.
"I try not to think about it at all," he said. "Just like when people say, any time you play an NBA game, whenever you think, that’s when you make mistakes. So I just try not to think about it at all. Just go out there and play my game. Honestly, that’s what I’m looking to do. In order for us to win, if I have to go out there and hold somebody to 10 points on the other team, that’s what I’ll look to do. Whatever it takes."
Whatever it takes.
Those words will have been music to Brad Stevens' ears. Not only has he been able to keep hold of a young potential franchise guard, but he's also got a player that is willing to do anything to win.
Bradley acts as though his new lucrative contract isn't something he thinks about, but it could actually have more to do with his current mindset than he thinks. He clearly feels indebted to Ainge and Stevens for having the faith in him to be part of the rebuild. He wants them to know that they did the right thing when they decided to keep him around for the long term.
The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. For now at least, Avery Bradley is committed to leading the Celtics through the rebuild process and beyond. Winning is the only thing that matters.
Whatever it takes.